A Clash Of Interests
Miles, Time Out, 15 December 1978

Will success spoil Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon and Joe Strummer? Miles chronicles the decline of a movement and the rise of a rock band.

IT'S BEEN a long time since anybody regarded The Who as a mod band, the Beatles as exponents of Merseybeat, or Bob Dylan as a folk-rocker. Musical movements enjoy even briefer life-spans than the careers of the musicians that emerge from them, and bands that start life in the turmoil of a new departure either vanish when times change or find a direction of their own. This has already happened to the British punk movement, and a magnificent crop of new groups are now developing in very different ways: The Jam, The Stranglers, XTC, The Buzzcocks, Siouxie and the Banshees, the Only Ones, Wire.

The Clash are the punk band who've stayed closest to their roots, and by being the most uncompromising, they have retained most of that original hard energy. Now they're poised at that difficult stage between local artistic success (which these days means Europe) and a place in the global rock industry. They have embraced the advanced technology of rock and risked the pressures of the market and yet managed to retain their integrity. With a second album produced by the heavily metallic Oyster Cultist Sandy Pearlman and recorded in London, New York and San Francisco, The Clash no longer can feel at home in the dole queue. But they're still broke. The new album, Give Em Enough Rope, entered the British charts at number 2, the four punks stared balefully from the covers and centrefolds of the four rock weeklies, and even in New York City Soho Weekly News headlined its front cover 'The Clash, Britain's Best New Band'. Yet as journalists rushed to deem them the Rolling Stones of the eighties, the band themselves closed ranks against a flurry of lawsuits from erstwhile manager Bernie Rhodes.

The day after the press reception for the new album, vocalist Joe Strummer and drummer Topper Headon were to be found selling clothes at a cold open air stall in Dingwalls Market in Camden Town. 'We're broke, man, so you just have to do what you can,' Strummer shrugged. 'Bernie kicked us out of our rehearsal studio and changed the locks.' Not long ago The Clash filled the Rainbow Theatre three nights in a row and then had to take the bus home because they couldn't afford a cab.

Once upon a time punk really was the music of the unemployed school-leaver living at home with his parents in a high-rise council block, numbed by TV, harassed by the police and funded by the dole. The supergroup stars living in tax exile might just as easily have been living on the moon. Johnny Rotten: 'We have to fight the entire superband system. Groups like the Stones are revolting. They have nothing to offer the kids any more...'

Punk energy was negative energy, pure Nihilism. A response born of poverty instead of sixties affluence cancelled the kids' subscriptions to hippy hopes of a counter-culture and replaced them with...nothing. They suggested no alternative, they saw no future at all. Perhaps not surprisingly this turned out to be a more universal message than anyone suspected. In Jubilee Week The Sex Pistols' 'God Save The Queen' made number 1 on the charts despite having no airplay and being banned by most large chain stores. Public school boys scenting doom in the dialectic pointed out that 'No Future' could mean even more to them than to the unemployed.

Lead guitarist Mick Jones recalls the community feeling that existed when punk first started. 'In them days it was definitely more of a movement in term of people working together with one aim. It's only since the record companies came in that all the competition and bitchiness started. Before, it was like all other art movements, you know? Like art movements didn't mind having their photographs taken together and they all worked together like one group and it was the one group.

'All the people that used to be around were working for one aim. Some kind of change really, to do something more interesting and different from what we had at the time. Like, if you wanted to go out there was nothing for us to do...'

Joe Strummer used to go on stage with 'Hate & War' stencilled on his boiler suit. Not just because it was the opposite of the hippies' 'Love & Peace' dictum but because it was an honest statement of what is happening today in Britain with our personal Vietnam in Northern Ireland and ever growing racialism at home. 'Things will get tough,' Strummer says, 'I mean a fascist government. But people won't notice like you won't notice your hair is longer on Monday than Sunday...What I'm aimed against is all that fascist, racialist patriotism type of fanaticism...'

This he sees as the role of The Clash. 'There's so much corruption: councils, governments, industry, everywhere. It's got to be flushed out. Just because it's been going on for a long time doesn't mean that it shouldn't be stopped. It doesn't mean that it isn't time to change. This is what I'm about, and I'm in The Clash, so, of course, that's what The Clash is about.

'We ain't no urban guerrilla outfit. Our gunpower is strictly limited. All we want to achieve is an atmosphere where things can happen. We want to keep the spirit of the free world. We want to keep the spirit of the free world. We want to keep out that safe, soapy, slush that comes out of the radio. People have this picture of us marching down the street with machine guns. We're not interested in that, because we haven't got any. All we've got is a few guitars, amps and drums. That's our weaponry.

The band may not be packing any pieces, but they do have an armoury of ideas – and they weren't welcome on the airwaves:

'All the power is in the hands
of people rich enough to buy it
While we walk the streets
too chicken to even try it.'
('White Riot', their first single)

The Clash began in May 1976 as a drummerless group, rehearsing in a small squat near Shepherds Bush Green. In the grand British rock tradition as laid down by John Lennon, Keith Richard, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ray Davies, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and David Bowie, they were all art school dropouts.

When guitarist and lyricist Mick Jones formed the band he was still at Hammersmith Art School. He comes from Brixton. His father was a cab driver and Jones lived with his parents until they divorced when he was 8. His mother emigrated to America and his father moved out, leaving Jones to live with his grandmother. When he wrote 'London's Burning With Boredom' for The Clash he was still living at his grandmother's flat on the eighteenth floor of a tower block overlooking The Westway. 'I ain't never lived under five floors. I ain't never lived on the ground.'

Jones asked Paul Simonon to join his group. Simonon had been playing all of six weeks, just strumming at a guitar but now he 'found' a bass and began playing. Simonon was also born in Brixton. His parents had split up and he lived mostly with his father. 'I had a paper round at six in the morning. Then I'd come back and cook me dad his breakfast. Then I'd fuck off to school. Then I'd come back and cook me dad his dinner and do another paper round after school and then I'd cook me dad's tea...' He got a council scholarship to the Byam Shaw art school in Notting Hill. 'I used to draw blocks of flats and car dumps.' At the time of meeting Mick Jones the only live rock band he'd seen was The Sex Pistols.

Vocalist Joe Strummer was in an R&B pub band called The 101ers and had even made a single, 'Keys To Your Heart' (Chiswick Records), when he met Mick and Paul. The guitarist and bass player, together with Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, were just leaving the Ladbroke Grove social security office when Joe arrived on his bike. They had seen the 101ers play The Windsor Castle and recognised in Joe 'the right look'. 'I don't like your group,' said Mick, 'but we think you're great'.

'As soon as I saw these guys,' said Joe, 'I knew that that was what a group in my eyes was supposed to look like.' Almost immediately afterwards The Sex Pistols supported The 101ers at a gig and convinced Joe of what was happening. He broke up his group the next day. 'Yesterday I thought I was a crud, then I saw The Sex Pistols and I became a king and decided to move into the future. As soon as I saw them I knew that rhythm and blues was dead, that the future was here somehow. Every other group was riffing through the Black Sabbath catalogue but hearing The Pistols I knew, I just knew!' Joe's art school was Central ('A lousy set-up').

The first thing the band did was refurbish an abandoned warehouse in Camden Town, then, with Terry Chimes (nicknamed Tory Crimes) sitting in on drums, they began rehearsals. They played their first gig in Sheffield in June 1976. Since places like the Marquee wouldn't book punk bands they often had to create venues such as cinemas or playing The ICA.

The Clash signed with CBS Records, controlled from New York by the mighty Columbia Records Corp. The deal, for something over £100,000, received a lot of press. But it wasn't, in fact, very good since it included no tour support and it is easy to lose £50,000 or £60,000 on a national tour promoting an album. The band remained on £25 a week, though times were better than in November '76, when they had returned to their cold warehouse after flyposting an ICA gig and desperately devoured what remained of the flour and water paste that they had used to put up the posters.

Then came the tour with The Pistols on their ill-fated 'Anarchy' dates and an album for CBS. They cut it in three weekends using their sound man as a producer. He'd never been in a studio before and the production was, not surprisingly, muddy. Despite this, the power of the music comes through and The Clash remains one of the best punk albums ever made. It entered the charts at number 12 and sold over 100,000 copies in the UK. But Columbia refused to release it in the States because they thought the sound quality would preclude airplay.

This was the period of punk violence. During one particularly unpleasant gig when the spit, bottles and cans were falling like rain, Terry Chimes watched as a wine bottle smashed into a million pieces on his hi-hat. He quit. Life on the road under such conditions took its toll on the others as well. Mick Jones remembers making the first album...

'Two years ago we did the band's first interview. On Janet Street Porter's London Weekend Programme it was, and me, being all young and naive, I blamed bands taking too many drugs for the great mid-70s drought in rock. I recall saying it really well. And a year or so later, I found myself doing just as many drugs as them!

'Y'know, taking drugs as a way of life, to feel good in the morning, to get through the day. And it's still something I'm getting over right now. I was so into speed, I mean, I don't even recall making the first album.'

They auditioned 206 drummers and rejected them all. Number 207 was Nicky 'Topper' Headon, a friend who'd played briefly with them in the old days. Headon was born in Bromley. His father is a headmaster at a primary school and his mother is a teacher. 'I first played drums when I was 13. I was working at the butchers, cleaning up and I saved the money to buy a kit for £30.' After school he worked the Dover Ferries and then on the Channel Tunnel before moving to London.

With their lineup complete, The Clash began to tour Britain, always taking with them a number of other bands that they felt close to philosophically or musically: The Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, The Slits, Richard Hell & The Voidoids from NYC and The Lous, a French female punk band. The art-rock bands of the sixties took rock out of the dance hall and placed it, literally, in the concert hall. The Clash took it back to the dance hall again – partly by necessity since their audiences have been known to pogo as many as 200 seats per concert into oblivion. With replacement costs at £20 a chair, the band began to insist on seatless venues.

Nonetheless their concerts were banned by local watch committees, and the police continually busted the band for drugs and vandalism. They survived bomb threats in Sweden and found one of their most devoted audiences in Belfast, a town many English bands refuse to play. Everywhere they went dozens of fans were allowed backstage and their hotel rooms were always packed out with local punks crashing on the floor because they couldn't get home.

After a month-long tour of Europe the band returned to discover that their everyday movements had become prime fodder for the music press. Anything that could possibly be interpreted as 'selling out' was jumped upon. Since the punk stars had not been imposed on their audiences (in the way The Bay City Rollers were) but had risen from their ranks, to 'sell-out' was not a concern that the band would lose artistic integrity and produce overtly commercial records, it was a concern that they would sacrifice community to commerce. And it was true, the band was feeling more and more distanced from its audiences. It was a subtle change: the scene's originally negative, yet communal, charge was unavoidably transformed into individual craft pride as the musicians became more professional. The very technology of rock, its expensive amplification equipment and studios, introduces the businessman into the musicians' lives. Playing becomes the band's work, performed while everyone else is at play. In The Scoiology Of Rock, Simon Frith pin-pointed the problem perfectly:

'Their work is everyone else's leisure, their way of life is everyone else's relaxation, escape and indulgence. They work in places of entertainment. What for them is routine is for their fans a special event. Musicians themselves are symbols of leisure and escape, their glamour supports their use as sex objects, as fantasies and briefly held dreams.'

The Clash are now a long way from the squat in Shepherds Bush. They remain on a level of intimacy with many of their fans, perhaps a little too intimate at times. (A few months ago Joe Strummer got hepatitis from a well aimed gob of spit which caught him in the mouth.) But as their fame grows, particularly with the release of their new album in The States, the only way they will be able to express their original ideals will be through their music. That is now their job.

Joe Strummer: 'I think people ought to know that we're anti-fascist, we're anti-violence, we're anti-racist and we're pro-creative. We're against ignorance.' And their music is real fine as well.

© Miles, 1978

Any further info / reviews appreciated

NME front page only
2 December 1978

NME? The Clash sack Rhodes
Page 1 ... page 2
New dates and reasons behind sacking

A Clash Of Interests
Miles, Time Out,
15 December 1978Will success spoil Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon and Joe Strummer? Miles chronicles the decline of a movement and the rise of a rock band. IT'S BEEN a long time since anybody regarded The Who as a mod band, the Beatles as exponents of Merseybeat, or Bob Dylan as a folk-rocker...

The Face 1980 -
Sort it Out Tour Perspective
Vaughan Toulouse quit the dole in PLymouth to follow the 1978 Clash Sort it Out Tour. "For a while back there in the summer of 76 I was fast lsoing hope in the future of rock n roll."

Clash Tour Dates
NME 7 October 1978 -
UNDER THE banner of “The Clash Sort It out”, the band next month begin their longest-ever British tour. It will include several Loildon dates in early December, details to be announced shortly. Meanwhile, confirmed gigs are:

Extra dates added
Melody Maker?
The Clash have extended their British Tour up to Christmas and have finalised...

Tour poster

December 15th 1978 Time Out cover story + cover image about The Clash (actually a very condensed version of a book written by Miles that was around at the time) page 1 ... page 2 ... page 3

Advert from the same Time Out for Purley & Lyceums concerts on 18/28/29 December 1978

The Inncoents
from Marguerite, lead singer

The fist date of the sort it out tour was the scottish gig. Edinburgh, i thought they played Glasgow right before that?

We missed the first gig. There was a snow storm and we drove up, we walked in just as theClash went on, but after that we did ALL the gigs. Two with out the slits, just us and the Clash, but mostly us, then the slits and then the Clash.

The tour officially started in mid Nov on a tuesday, I seem to recall that we were trying for that. So we played thirty gigs, came back played with Suzie and the Banshees at the music Machine and then did the Sid Vicious Benefit.

I don't know why you seem to be the only people who noticed us in the years since...but thanks for it.

Just to add. I didn't count all the cancelled dates, but we were often on the road waiting to hear if we would play or not...Newcastle was a mob scene...

I hope this helps, write back if you have any questions.

Best Marguerite, <clarity32[a]gmail.com>

Meloday Maker front cover only

These dates have changed and reflect A Riot of Our Own, the NME and tape details.

Belfast was the first night, Dublin the day after, a day off in London before Paris. The remaining dates fit around the Belgium tape and A Riot of Our Own. Several French dates are missing after Paris

Oct 13 Belfast, University SU, Queens Hall
Johnny Green (A Riot of Our Own p106) states this was the opening of the tour. Date from NME gig review.
Oct 14 Top Hat, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin
with Berlin .. ticket ... poster
Oct 16 Le Stadium, Paris
Johnny Greens book states this was Le Palace (Le Palace is the promotion company for many French gigs). As the poster says, its the 16th October at Le Stadium.
Oct 19

Leuven (in the town parc during a beer festival)

There is a reference in Discogs of a bootleg of the concert in Leuven. I doubt it is genuine:

Oct 20 The Stokvishal, Arnhem, Holland
I went a concert of The Clash at the Stokvishal in Arnhem (Holland) on friday, October 20 1978. I don't know for sure if my agenda is completely right, but it seems right. The Stokvishal was a great place at this time, it was an old factory hall based on the, during the Arnhem battle of 1945, completely distroyed  area close to the Arhem bridge.
Other concerts I visited at that time at the Stokvishal: Iggy Pop, Cure, Only Ones, Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Specials, Madness, Theatre of Hate...
Oct 21 The Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland.
We believe this may have been the 24th (see above). The 21st. Both these last two gig are noted on p110 of A Riot of Our Own.
Oct 22 Ancienne Belgique, Brussels
some tapes have this labeled the 30th. The recording (Joe) I.D.'s the venue as Brussels but Johnny Greens book A Riot of Our Own (p109) suggests the Begium date of the 22nd was Leuven just outside Brussels. Around 1500 people at the gig. Great photos here from Philippe Carly
Oct 23

Cinema Home, Fieron (suburb of Liege)

It is said that it was the backroom of a pub in a industrial suburbs. It must have been surrealistic like Belgium.
The book said the Clash trashed and destroyed the walls between the bacsktages. About the date, the book said the band played a monday, so it must have been the 23rd. Photo below from gig. There's a book with a pic on page 88 link here

One member of the dutch punkband The Filth confirmed that they played as support act from The Clash on the 21th of october 1978 in Paradiso in Amsterdam. We thought this gig may have been the 21st. I can see at the description of the gigs at the end of october 1978 that you are not sure of the dates you mentioned are correct. The day before they played at the Stokvishal in Arnhem. The date you gave: 24th of october 1978 Paradiso is wrong! Yours Sincerly, Peter Clash fan from Holland

Johnny Greens book A Riot of Our Own (p109) suggests a Belgium gig at Leuven just outside Brussels, following a drive up from Paris. Some suggestion that this gig followed the Brussels gig. 400 people there.

Oct 25 Roxy Theatre, Harlesden, London
Postponed on the 9th September, resheduled date of September 25th postponed and also further resheduled date of 14th October postponed. New GLC restrictions limited tickets to 900, so a second night scheduled for the other 700.

Whirlwind supported. I do not know about the 26.10.78. Free t-shirts (Tommy Gun) given to audience for being messed around previously. I have two. Colin

Oct 26 Roxy Theatre, Harlesden, London
Nov 3 Bath Pavillion
see ticket
Nov 9 Village Bowl, Bournemouth cancelled? (NME 7 Oct 78)
Nov 10 Winter Gardens, Malvern cancelled?
Nov 12? Canterbury Odeon
A Riot of Our Own pg124
Nov 14 Locarno, Coventry cancelled?
Nov 15 Belle Vue, Manchester
Nov 16 Odeon, Edinburgh, Scotland
Nov 17 Town Hall, Middlesborough
Nov 18 Leeds University
supported by the Innocents as well as by the Slits.
Nov 19 Top Rank, Sheffield
supported by the Innocents as well as by the Slits.
Nov 20 De Montfort, Leicester
supported by the Innocents as well as by the Slits.
Nov 21 Locarno, Bristol
supported by the Innocents as well as by the Slits.
Nov 22 Birmingham Odeon cancelled
Nov 22 Village Bowl, Bournemouth
Nov 23 Ipswich Gaumont cancelled
Nov 23 Apollo, Manchester
Nov 24

Kings Hall, Derby

supported by the Innocents as well as by the Slits. ... ticket ... ticket ... poster
Nov 26 Top Rank, Cardiff, Wales
Nov 27 University, Exeter
Nov 28 Tiffany’s, Coventry
Melody Maker lists this as the Locarno at Coventry?
On the Road with the Clash
Traxmarx - includes Tiffany's Gig
Nov 29 Victoria Hall, Hanley, Stoke

Subject: Re:Stoke 78-
...the guy (mark) who runs the punk vinyl stall on Leek (saturday) & Newcastle under lyme markets, is attempting to retrive his tape of stoke 78 from a mate in essex. PS don't confuse mark with the white haired prog seller also on leek market

The 29th November '78 wasn't the Stoke Mandeville concert. '78 was with the Slits, was more rock, less anarchic, better musically, but I was a bit disappointed all the same (that isn't to say it was a bad concert, but compared to the first..). We weren't allowed backstage after the concert. Joe insisted that everyone got in for £2,25 whether they were advance sales or not, threatening not to play otherwise. (1)

the gig line up was the clash slits and the innocents, viv and the rest of the slits came into the crowd to watch the clash autographs were given, when the clash arrived for the sound check, they also signed loads of stuff for the group of fans at the back door, which included me 14 years old and a clash fan then (2 nacro_killer)

"During the drum intro for Tommy Gun, Topper hit himself in the eye with a drumstick, so joe shouted "tommy gun!, with one eye!" (Tim)

I was at the same gig, had an amazing night, fist of all Topper was playing so maically his drum stick snapped in half and I managed to get the top half that flew off...and then after the gig me and my mates managed to get in the dressing room, sitting on the floor with the band talking, they all signed my Sort It Out Tour poster, unbelievable! (Shaun)Howdy

Excellent site - been checking you out for a few years now. Couple of bits of trivia regarding punter comments on 29/11/78 Hanley Victoria Hall.

Fans were allowed backstage at this gig - eventually. The reason for the delay was a scene being filmed for Rude Boy. The bit near the end where Mick lambasts Ray for is Racist quips. Clearly seen behind Mick is some graffiti stating "Stoke Punks rule" or similar. Caroline Coon was floating about looking impossibly glamourous to a very impressionable 14 year old. Another very brief scene was shot and appears in rude Boy - the trashed dressing room (done previously by the Jam) where Joe is tuning his Tele. Bruno Brooks later interviewed Topper and Paul which was broadcast on the Sunday following the gig and later issued unedited as a pic disc (featuring a later pic of Joe with mohican!!!)

I'd love to get in touch with the previous commenter 'nacro-killer' as I used to work for NACRO in the eighties and possibly know the individual. Do you have a forum? Rob Wild <rob.wild1[a]virgin.net>

Nov 30 Wirrina Stadium, Peterborough
Dec 2 Polytechnic, Newcastle
last night of the tour according to A Riot of Our Own pg 125 and it definately took place. It is listed on adverts in the music press as a late date for the Tour.
Dec 4 University Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland
cancelled due to student only policy which Joe found out about and objected too. A Riot of Our Own pg123
Dec 5 University Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland
cancelled due to student only policy which Joe found out about and objected too
Dec 6

Liverpool University Guild of Students (Mountford Hall & Stanley Theatre), Liverpool,

You've a gig listed on the Sort It Out Tour at Liverpool University on 6/12/78 which Iím not sure ever took place.

?????? Brighton Top Rank
I saw the Clash at the Brighton top Rank in '78 or possibly the first half of '79, can't see it listed anywhere, anyone else remember it? It was well before London Calling, they opened with English Civil War, I remember it cos Topper let me and some other kids in the side door as you were sposed to be 21 to get in and the bouncers weren't having any of it! I was 16 at the time I'm pretty sure, still at school anyway and i left in '79. I'd love to know the date of the gig.
Dec 10 Liverpool Erics

Erics published a book with a flyer advertising the Clash on 10 December.

As the Clash had cancelled a gig at Glasgow Uni on 5/12/78 due to the student only door policy , perhaps they also binned the Liverpool Uni gig and switched it to Ericís on the 10/12/78 ?

Dec 12 Pavillion Bath
This gig definately took place. Thx for info. Poster
Dec 17 Portsmouth Locarno
Dec 18 Tiffany’s, Purley
[originally anounced as Purley Locarno] supported by the Slits - snowed heavily. A large cheesy nightclub in South London. Supported by the Innocents as well as by the Slits.
Dec 19 Music Machine, London
...Sid Vicious Defence Fund benefit. Also supported by Phil Rambow and Friends.
Dec 20 Civic Hall Wolverhampton?
Dec 21 Hastings Pier Pavillion
Dec 22 Friars, Aylesbury
On the Road with the Clash
Traxmarx - includes Friars Xmas Party featuring The Clash
Dec 28 Lyceum, London
Dec 29 Lyceum, London
Jan 3 Lyceum, London
This gig may have been the 31 December?
On the Road with the Clash
Traxmarx - includes this Lyceum gig